February 15, 2013
In a world where companies communicate with corporate PR speak, I applaud Elon Musk’s tone in his response to John Broder’s review of the Tesla Model S. It reminds me of Steve Jobs when he was pissed off. But while on the surface Musk’s arguments seem compelling, digging a bit deeper shows cracks and the same sort of biased analysis and prejudice that resulted in Broder’s original conclusions.
Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic Wire had a look at the data presented by Musk, and found it less than conclusive:
Not all of Musk’s data is entirely convincing and the parts that are don’t point to a malicious plot. In the end, it looks like Broder made some compromises to get from the Newark charging station to the Milford one, in both speed and temperature. Broder may not have used Musk’s car the way Musk would like, but Musk is, for now, overhyping his case for a breach of journalism ethics.
It does look like Musk’s interpretation of the data is prejudiced to conform to his existing conclusion, which is ironic as that’s exactly what he accused Top Gear of doing when they reviewed the Tesla Roadster. These claims were refuted by Top Gear, and thrown out of court twice:
Mr Justice Tugendhat said that Tesla’s second attempt to formulate their malicious falsehood case on damage was so “vague” and so “gravely deficient” that “it is impossible to say that it has a real prospect of success or is in respect of a real and substantial tort.”
The problem Tesla and Elon Musk now face is the boy who cried wolf syndrome (I just made that up). Broder might well have skewed his interpretation of the facts to over-dramatise the negativity of the review, but it doesn’t look like he’s a malicious, oil-lobbying, corporate stooge either. Certainly, there is very little case of libel.
Written by Weiran Zhang who lives and works in Nottingham. You should follow him on Twitter.